Tag Archives: 12 steps

Rule #5 revisited for #worldkindnessday

In honor of #worldkindnessday I am posting a chapter of my upcoming little book called Rules 101Kindness is a gem of a spiritual gift. I’m in awe of those who seem to come by it naturally. I’m striving to uncover more of it in myself.

May you experience some true kindness today.

Rule #5 Be Kind:

Years ago when I taught high school, I led a tour of a dozen or so students to Washington, DC. I recall much of that trip fondly. The schedule was jammed with museums, historical places, and memorable sights. One stands out, distinctly because it was not enjoyable.

We spent a couple of hours touring the Holocaust Memorial, wandering from exhibit to exhibit, through the vast museum, all of which powerfully conveyed the tragedy of genocide. Few exhibits grabbed the students by the collar and seized their attention like this tour did. It whispered in every ear, “Attention must be paid.” Tears trickled down cheeks. Sweat formed on clammy palms. Our spirits merged and mourned for a people we did not know in an era far removed from ours.

We gathered at the end for a moment of silent
reflection, just our group. I felt the need to say something, yet wondered if this was one of those times to stay out of the way and let each person take a few steps of their own on their spiritual journey. Finally, I took out a big white card and a sharpie and wrote, “Be Kind.” I held it up and said,“If you folks learn anything that lasts on this trip, please learn these two words.”

I’m still working on learning that every day. I hardly knew what I spoke of at the time, but I felt it.

Rule 5

As time passed, I realized that little seed had started to grow. The idea of being kind soon infused much of my response to the world around me. I remained a highly flawed person, full of struggles and failings. But I’ve never forgotten that when in doubt simply try to be kind. I think it became a fundamental aspect of how I saw myself and a standard I could gauge my actions.

If it were easy to be kind, the world would be a gentler place. Kindness remains rare, an endangered species of human behaviors despite bumper stickers that state “Practice random acts of kindness.” Easier said than done, though well worth the effort.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that eventually I found my soul mate in a woman who was, and still is, the kindest person I know. I’m enthralled by her kindness. It’s a perfect rose in the midst of thorns, weeds, and crabgrass so common in our world. The more I’m touched by her kindness, the more I’m determined to find reserves of it within myself.

I truly believe kindness kills cancer and other illnesses. Kindness flows out of us releasing a healing energy within us. It is as important to my day as physical exercise, good, healthy food, vitamins and things that strengthen and challenge my mind.

In my journey through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I learned how resentments formed within us like emotional cancers. They fester and latch on and spread through our souls. Yet the only cure is not what I expected. I assumed I’d eventually have me to go to the people that hurt me and the people I resent and tell them how their actions affected me. Instead, it was the opposite. The steps directed me to make amends to those I hurt. In the steps, I had to be kind. And because the process of making amends will likely take me a decade or more, I constantly have to search my actions for the things I do to hurt others and find a way to respond in kindness. The discipline of kindness results.

As for those who hurt me, I learned two powerful things. First, often they are the same people I hurt. By making amends, I often found remission of the cancerous resentments inside of me. I never saw it coming. I assumed it would work like a children’s sitcom. I’d say sorry; the other person would say sorry, we’d hug, and it would all be better. But it didn’t work that way at all.

In one particular instance, I spent a long, difficult time listening to how I caused pain. I wanted to fight back and defend myself. I felt my hurt rise anew. Instead, I prayed. Then I apologized, and I changed how I acted in ways the person said they wanted.

And that was it. The other person never heard me out. They never apologized. But they felt better. They forgave me. Within a short while, I realized my resentments were gone as well. I just felt the kindness I lacked suddenly emerge. For a long time now it seems to have stuck around. The cancer is gone, kindness in its place. Those unexpressed grievances aren’t that important to me any longer.

The second powerful thing I learned is called the resentment prayer. Alcoholics Anonymous instructs people struggling with resentment, to channel their energy differently. Instead of letting those negative thoughts run on an endless loop in our mind, poisoning our mood and fostering bitterness in our soul, they instruct us to pray for these very people. And the prayer isn’t “Lord, smite these sinners!” No, it’s the opposite. The resentment prayer is a prayer of blessing, more along the lines of, “Lord, you know So and So and how I hope they burn in hell, right? Well, change of plans. I’d like you to bless them. I’d like you to make their lives wonderful and beautiful and free them from all that ails them…”

I admit I prayed these prayers through gritted teeth. But I prayed the prayers. In the days that followed, I felt the grip of resentments lessen. Soon, I rarely thought about these things at all. Eventually, I experienced forgiveness to some degree.

Jesus instructed us to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. I never fully understood why we had to do this until I actually did it.

I learned one other amazing spiritual truth about kindness the deeper I delved into it and sought it for myself. It is one of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law,” The Apostle Paul — himself once an angry, hateful dude — wrote to us. Kindness isn’t something only a few wonderful people are born with. It is a gift from God that we all can have if we take the time to ask for it.

The more we receive, the more we give it away and the cycle continues to gain steam producing positive energy that actually can transform a human heart, a relationship, a community and a world.

In every circumstance, in every relationship, in everyday opportunities to respond to our environment will present itself. In each one, as much as possible, give serious consideration to a kind response. At times, the kindest thing will cut like a scalpel. At other times, it will comfort like a mother’s embrace. In all circumstances, it will infuse you with a sense of empowerment.

Remember, be kind.

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Mr. Potato God could disappoint at time of need

When it comes to spirituality, I am a lot of things, and a lot of labels. I best describe me as an Anabaptist Christian Liberal with Catholic leanings seasoned by spiritual mystics from various practices and faiths. My spiritual exercises include yoga, physical exertion, prayer, liturgy, meditation, Bible study and reading.

I guess you could describe me as eclectic. 

But here’s what I am not: God.

And I have no interest in the job.

You should all breathe a sigh of relief. If I were God, we’d all be screwed.

I worry however that The Nones, that 59 million-strong swell of people who don’t associate with any one religion, may trick themselves into thinking they are God. What may start out as an earnest search for truth may become a lazy default that defines God or rejects God based on personal needs and wants or something so banal as convenience. We are too lazy to find God, we don’t want to ascribe to someone else’s view of God, so we simply dismiss God or invent our own.

The end result is what I call Mr. Potato God, a bizarre concoction of our own making that helps our deluded selves feel a bit better, but matters not at all.

I trod a fine line here and one that’s hard to get right without pissing off a whole host of 59 million people who I would love to connect with.  Still, I think its important so I’ll try to get it right.

By all rights, I am one of The Nones. I do resemble them. Like many of The Nones, I am educated, under the age of 55 and spiritually curious. Rather than accept the dogma of a single brand of faith, I am guilty of picking and choosing a bit. From the above description of my faith it would be easy to think I just pick and chose my faith from a buffet, defining God however best suits me.

It’s a fair accusation and assumption, but I don’t  think it is accurate. I am not the one who decides my faith. I am not inventing a God that works for me. To be blunt, I don’t need a God I can create. Instead, I see God as something of a puzzle. When a piece slides into place it’s not because I cut it to fit, but because it belongs right there. I may not have a good grasp of the whole puzzle but I know when a piece belongs.

The problem is not God, it’s me: my limitations, my lack of faith and my moral decay that keeps me from living On Earth as it is in Heaven.

That’s what transformation is all about. Knowing God in truth. God is God. The ways we understand Her are as varied as the types of tropical fish in the ocean times a million. Spiritual roads are varied but in the end, if truth is sought and love is found, there is God.

It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Many times along my spiritual trek I have wanted to fit God in where I felt He should go. When my life hit bottom I pleaded, insisted and convinced myself the miracle would be a comin’ and I’d be given a reprieve. I couldn’t have been more wrong, time and time again. I learned to humbly accept that God is untamed and unbowed. I must discover Her, not invent her to suit my needs.

I found God more in my suffering than I ever did in times of so-called blessing. The Buddhists and the Christian mystics had this figured out long ago. It took so much pain to understand it. Believe me, if I were God, or even allowed to make God, I’d remove the suffering part of things. But I am not and suffering remains a part of the journey.

I am convinced the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was a prophetic gift from God. It’s power is in the spiritual truths the steps follow. It’s a spiritual program and has been since its discovery by a couple of desperate drunks willing to seek God and try anything to stay sober.

But the notion that a Higher Power is whatever we want it to be remains a difficult one for me. I understand the need from an addict’s standpoint to start with whatever we can imagine God to be. But at some point along the 12-step path, we must allow the Higher Power to unveil itself regardless of what we can imagine. That’s how the 12-step founders saw it and I think they were right. I think we’ve shape-shifted this idea into places it wasn’t meant to go. We’ve made a Higher Power that is little more than a Mr. Potato God.

In the end such a God will disappoint.

My default preference is toward atheism. Mentally, life would be easier if it were random and death final. It suits my built-in recklessness. It explains the epidemic of selfishness and arrogance I see today. It makes idiocy like anti-social media make sense.

But in the core of my being I know God to exist. I’ve met the spirit in certain moments. In times of acute suffering, disappointment, failure, injustice I have recognized the presence of God with me. In times of utter joy, grace, blessing and beauty I feel God’s touch and breath. Nothing else has ever so radically redefined my life.

The challenge for me over the past thirty-two year off-road trek with God has not been to decide if I believe, it has been to uncover who it is that has called me by name. I only want to know the real, true, creator God. I only seek truth.

I find puzzle pieces from many different expressions of faith. This is what makes me like The Nones. I’m confident that a vast number of that vast number of The Nones have experiences and spiritual journey’s similar to my own. They too don’t think they are God.

But we all must walk lightly. Too often our need defines what we insist God be. By definition God can’t be so minimized and remain deity. In those times it takes great courage and relentless honesty to search for the living God.

The Nones are wary of those peddling religious certitude and there I join them wholeheartedly. God is a mystery and will remain so. The puzzle is never fully filled until the other side of Heaven on Earth. So we don’t know everything. We don’t even know how much we don’t know. This is why we reject those who insist they do. This is why we pick and choose a bit. Not because we think we are inventing a God of our choice–each making our own Mr. Potato God–but because we think truth is worth discovering wherever and whoever has a piece of it.

But this difference, this central idea of God being God and not us creating Him, is a vital one for all spiritual seekers, Nones or not.

Mindfulness is like living on the ocean shore

A few years back The Bride and I spent nearly a month in Mexico living along the Sea of Cortez. The beautiful seas could kick up waves and whitecaps and turbulence like most great bodies of waters. But its remarkable ability for morning stillness captures my memories most. I’d get up and that enormous, powerful, mystical sea would lie calm as a lake without a ripple across its surface. The pelicans would fly low, barely above the crystal clear glass with a perfect view of the breakfast swimming below. They’d fly up and with the urgency of Robin Hood’s arrow pierce the tranquility, snatch their prey and fly back up to the skies above. The water would ripple outward at the momentary disturbance but soon return to the silent calm.

Th hectic nature of the day would rise. Fishermen would crack the water’s surface with their boats and winds would stir up the waves and the sprinkling of tourists would splash up on its shores. By mid-day the waters would resemble their natural state, sea-like, with whites and foam and curling waves.

I grew up with the powerful Pacific nearby, always within a quick drive to visit. It’s relentless power never stilled. It’s slamming shoreline never quieted. So the stillness of Cortez showed me a stark contrast that offers a silent portrait for stillness, a power my mighty Pacific has never known.

Throughout my life my mind has been the Pacific. I’d stare incredulously at The Bride when I’d ask, “what are you thinking?” and she’d reply, “nothing.”

Impossible, I thought. The idea of a silent mind was as foreign as building a house on Mars.

I learned to drink to quiet my mind. For more than twenty years I took my medicine faithfully, never once letting a night go by without some measure of calming elixir dulling the crashing waves inside my head.

The Bride struggled with anxiety in those years.  I felt such compassion for her even though I was oblivious to the idea of “worry.” I didn’t really grasp it. She once asked me — during a particularly scary time in our life with the storms of life crashing powerful waves against our existence — what I feared.

“Nothing,” I said, fully meaning it. Because the alcohol had done its work, the relentless activity of my mind had dulled and even though a storm brewed outside our doors, my mind felt calm. Ah booze, you once made me feel like Superman.

It’s this reality that causes me to resist a gentle suggestion that I consider anti-anxiety medication. I’d love my mind to slow down, but I prefer to figure a way to do it naturally through the disciplines of silence, of yoga practice, of prayer, of relationship.

So now, both sober and finding far more common ground over our anxiety, we together pursue the mindfulness that keeps life in balance. The daily activity and winds through our life whip up a good internal storm now again, but the focus on that Sea of Cortez dawn-like calm remains a daily pursuit. Some days are more Cortez like than others. The Pacific routinely makes its presence felt on our shores. But we’ve learned a few things along the way that I consider critical for finding the balance that leads to a healthy emotional, mental state.

  • Relentless truthfulness — with yourself most of all — is critical. I read from the interesting book Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, that Jesus didn’t compare good and evil but truth and evil. We don’t overcome our evil with white-knuckled goodness but truthfulness. As Jesus said, “the truth will set you free.”
  • Honor the silence — Even if I can only go for a few minutes, the discipline of silence is worthy of practice just as I exercise my body physically. Few doubt any longer the health benefits of silent meditation. I am often ragged at best with my efforts, but it’s worth it, in particular, the intentional disconnect to the digital world this affords me.
  • Season liberally with grace — Peace is not a place we arrive to but a condition of life’s journey. We will storm through life often enough. We will, frankly, make a hot fucking mess of our lives even on our best days. I am so grateful for grace. The 11th step is the daily moral inventory, which is paramount in my life. It’s like letting the air out of the balloon that has built up all day. I still struggle with the practice of simply admitting it when I’ve screwed up. This step forces me to do so and the waves inside me calm when I do. God’s grace is so abundant. I need to be reminded of it daily.
  • Learning what is — A change in the weather often comes when I simply embrace the weather. I hear the storm inside my mind. My nerves crackle with the energy of a power line. I feel the disquiet in my chest and gut. I do best when I simply name it all. This is what is it is, I tell myself. I’m anxious. I’m pissed. I’m scared. I’m tired. Life feels shitty right now in this moment. I learn to see what it is. Because once I do so, the mother’s heart of God comforts me and reminds me, “All that is true, but your are OK. You are still here. This storm will pass.” And sure enough, soon enough, if does — and for the last 57 months, it has passed without me taking the drink I always want in times like those.
  • Avoid future tripping — Do you ever have a conversation with yourself about a future conversation coming up that you fear will be ugly? I’ve driven down the road playing out the scene I anticipate before me so thoroughly, I can’t recall the drive at all. But my body feels the experience as if it’s happened. The back and forth rehearsal, in which I’ve played all the roles, usually goes dramatically bad. I play out the future and it’s like a Shakespearean Tragedy — full of woe. Then the real event arrives and it’s rarely as bad as I anticipated. But my body went through the agony of the worst anyway. This future tripping feels real and I suffer it as real, even when I’ve done it all in my mind. Perhaps this is why Jesus gently reminded us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, today has enough troubles of its own.” Jesus never expected us not to feel anxiety, he only offered the advice of staying present, in the moment, so you only experience what’s real not the pain you envision.
  • Combine heart and head with yoga and prayer — too much of our spirituality is sedate, which gives little release to the physical needs of our bodies. Yoga has remained over the last five thousand years because it refuses to compartmentalize our souls but deals with us as what we are, a vastly interconnected human being that all needs to sync in harmony to run at peak performance. Yoga allows the body to lead the mind and connect with the soul holistically. When I couple it with prayer I simply feel better almost every time. I rib my oldest friend — a gay pastor who loves modern Evangelical church services (ugh..) — that all those antics would be better served dancing at an Ozzy concert. He tells me with a silly smile, “I love happy clappy services. I’ll admit it.” I suspect it’s like his yoga, when his body can match the worship in his mind, so maybe it’s not so bad after all.

If you struggle as I do with anxiety, and with mindfulness and the discipline of being present, I hope some of this will help. Please understand that for many — perhaps even me, who knows — the problem is a chemical dysfunction within the brain and could best be treated with medication. I don’t suggest anyone should feel bad for taking what makes them feel better, no more than a diabetic takes insulin. That choice is yours and you should do as you will. I just know that these things don’t hurt either and we all can benefit from them to a lesser or greater degree.

Namaste, God Bless, Peace, and may grace abound.

 

 

If food is a drug we may as well use the good stuff

Addicts often replace one addiction for another one. For those in recovery, it starts with replacing the drug of choice with something more benign and then gradually changing the addictive behaviors. You’ve never seen sugar consumed until you’ve seen a former meth addict in rehab. I once sat with a friend of mine and watched him dump at least half a cup of sugar in his milk.

This is also why AA meetings are shrouded in a smog of cigarette smoke in the entryway.

For those going the other way, deeper into their addictions, this process works in reverse, with addictions trading up in search of a better high. Either way, the process is in constant motion, evolving and adapting to our ever-changing mental state.

The key, as was pointed out in a seminal book on addictions, Addiction and Grace, by Gerald May, to recognize this process rather than fight it. By dragging our addictions up from the depth of our unconscious, we are less ensnared by them. By recognizing that we have these addictions we are far less likely to be consumed by them.

May does an excellent job in explaining that most people suffer from addictive behavior. A rarer special group of us addicts take those addictions to extreme levels and therefore need treatment. Most simply manage them.

Regardless, the process of making these addictions conscious (not conscience, which can be similar in this regard) is important for everyone, not just those of us in recovery.

When I went through rehab, I took on a spirit of monk-like deprivation. I cut everything out of my life. No booze to be sure, but also a long list of other things I said no to like sex, and sugar and even for a short while caffeine. Eventually I allowed myself to return to more normal experiences of all of the above with the exception of booze. I’ve been clean and sober now for 55 months, thank God.

Slowly but surely the other old addictions returned. I drink a lot of coffee these days. As you can read from my post, I have reunited with sugar too. Both crept back into my life until I really wanted both each day. I even called it happy hour, which it is… coffee and chocolate? That’s happy:

happy hour
happy hour

Ding, ding, ding, the bells went off in my head. Addiction alert?!

Food is a drug, I realize that now. I don’t spend hours in the kitchen crafting crazy recipes over and over without understanding the addictive needs I have are being met.

Like everything else, I simply have to recognize the process. I have to accept that making food and eating food (especially sugar, which is the Meth of food) my brain experiences sensations similar to what alcohol used to do for me.

I watched a great documentary on this recently called, Hungry for Change. It expertly explained the addictive properties of food, especially my beloved devil: sugar. Watching that show was like going to an AA meeting. I felt my out-of-balance need for food shift within me back into greater balance.

It finally dawned on me this nagging feeling I’ve had for weeks. If food is going to be my drug of choice (which it is along with coffee… I’ve accepted these in my life) then why not go for the best. I don’t want to waste my addiction on crappy food. I want to enjoy it with excellent food.

It made me think back to rehab when they’d talk about triggers. I was asked if the holidays were triggering me to drink.

“Well, nobody’s tossing a bottle of Grey Goose onto the grounds here, so it’s not too bad,” I told them.

I was just like that as an alcoholic. I didn’t want my addiction diluted with beers at 7 a.m. I’d hang on each day until Happy Hour and an expensive cocktail followed by a nice bottle of wine. That’s what The Bride and I would call it, “Nice.” It was always a nice bottle of wine even when it would cause an ugly hangover the next day.

Well, those tendencies serve me well now. If I focus on good food, healthy food, food I make and grow and nurture, I get far more bang for my addictive buck than a blast down to McDonald’s. I also keep that lusty sugar in check. (By the way, I think my sobriety date for McDonald’s or other fast food joints is going on 31 months. Not bad?!)

Food is my drug now. It beats the other ones I’ve had. So I may as well make it good food and everything will be just fine.

Who will play me in the movie?

When celebrities die, The Bride takes it very personally. This is in part because of her deep empathy. She feels things. But it’s also her interest in the cult of celebrity that goes back to our teen-age years of the 1980s. Break out the 1980s trivial pursuit and she will bust anyone upside the head. She’s got mad skills.

So it’s not surprising the other day that our son texted The Bride when he heard the news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose. They shared shock and sadness and bonded over the common love of movies. Then my son texted, “Who are we gonna get to play Dad in the movies now?”

My family likes to joke about the movie of my life. It’s part of the life I lived I guess, sort of like the old “you’ll laugh about this someday.” The movie thing is the laugh long after the pain.

But I have to admit, I’ve thought about who will play us in the movie. Sarah Jessica Parker is a lock for the bride, I think. But me, it’s always been more of a debate. I have to admit I was taken aback by the Hoffman comparison. I loved this acting too, but me? No. Pass! Next please!

I’ve always envisioned more of a Mark Ruffalo type — the whole indy vibe and the shared ideals, the similarities in a strain of cooled rebellion that I suspect runs in his veins as well. He seems like a good fit (assuming Brad Pitt and George Clooney pass first. I’d kill to have Pitt’s production company Plan B option one of my scripts. Just plain old sell my soul to the devil…). But apparently my son and I see me very, very differently. On what sphere to do these two seem likely to be considered for the same role?

Hoffman Ruffalo

I think I’m a little hurt. At least he could have said Jimmy Dugan even though he’s a bit old these days.

 Ok, confession time. I am not alone in this self-indulgent musing. You’ve considered it, at least one… right? Who WOULD play YOU in the movie of your life? Post it below. Come clean. You’ll enjoy a good laugh.

The process of recovery is recognizing the Tasmanian Devil swath of destruction we carve through our lives. We swirl up a lot of loved ones in the process. Only when we stop spinning and grinning from our devilish actions, we look around and have a choice. Keep spinning or stop and find a new way.

For Hoffman, the heroin was too much. After two decades of sobriety he relapsed and this time he couldn’t shake it. He died with a needle in his arm.

That struck home with me. I was in rehab with a lot of heroin addicts. I liked them a lot. Alcohol and heroin addicts share a lot in common. But the one thing they all talked about is the poor success rate for recovery among heroin addicts. It is horribly low. Hoffman is just another example of the terrible toil addiction takes.

So it’s not the worst person to play me after all… because I live with the reality that by God’s grace I broke free from addiction and found a different way. But like Hoffman, you can’t ever think you’ve got it licked. Not even twenty years later. Not ever. The cost is simply too great.

20 reasons why I’m an alcoholic

I’m a list maker. It’s nearly a compulsion. I have lists everywhere. I have lists of my 12 favorite books, my five favorite baseball parks, my all-time baseball team, my to-do lists for tomorrow, my to-do lists for the month, the list of stuff I want to do around the house… well, whatdya know, Ijust made a new list: a list of lists.

I got a problem here, I know.

Anyway, I came across an old list I made up shortly after I got out of rehab. My first sponsor was the first guy I could find, who was a homeless guy with just a few teeth, a terrible smoking habit and a serious commitment to Alcoholics Anonymous. I liked him and he prodded me forward. One of the ideas he had was to make a list of why I thought I ended up a boozer. Like sick ’em to a dog, I made my list.

Looking back on it now, it still rings true. But I’m so far removed from that guy that I read it now with a sense of freedom. That’s what they mean when we say we celebrate recovery. At first the idea of never drinking again sounds like a death sentence. I truly believed life would never be fun again. I didn’t believe I’d never drink again. Now, not only am I having the time of my life, I don’t even want to drink. It’s amazing how the brain changes.

I share this list today as nothing more than an oddity, a peek back to a much more difficult time. But if you’re there… wondering if you have a problem or knowing you have one and can’t possibly imagine life without booze, well, read on. Here’s why I am an alcoholic. Maybe you can try making your own list.

Twenty reasons why I’m an alcoholic…

1) Because I’ve been rebellious all my life. What better way to rebel?

2) because my image was built on the caricature of a “real man” or a “sophisticated man,” a writer like Hemingway, etc. In other words my self-esteem was tied up living on the edge, drinking in the good life, collecting wine, etc. I went so far as to buy a bar just so I could have my own corner table

3) because I used it to ignore stress. I thought I was like the “Godfather” who solved everyone’s problems, when in fact I was stressed out of my mind and needed to drink to calm my anxiety

4) because I thought it made me fun and helped me break out of my uncomfortability in social settings

5) because business deals and work meetings are best conducted in bars

6) because I avoided my inner fears for decades by drowning them with alcohol

7) because I feared abandonment by everyone who matters to me

8) because I am weak and afraid

9) because I’ve been disappointed with myself for years, especially with my lack of follow through and lasting success

10) because I really, really, really love wine!

11) because I’m very reckless, so of course, I push everything to the extremes, including how much/how often I drink

12) because I’m powerless and basically out of control

13) because I’m lonely and felt unloved most of my life

14) because my parents really stressed me out and ultimately left me feeling undefended against the world

15) because I grew up feeling I pissed off everyone around me

16) because I suck at saying “no” to myself and/or others, which creates a big fucking mess of instant gratification most of the time

17) because drinking made my bad choices easier to deal with

18) because I wanted to prove all the “fundamentalists” wrong about drinking

19) because I love the show “Cheers” and still love happy hours

20) because I’m a complete fucking idiot.

See, aren’t lists just great?! It’s all in how you look at it. When I wrote that list a couple of years ago I never wanted a drink so bad in my life. Now, I read it and thank God for all She’s done in my life. So yes, lists are great. It’s all in how you look at it.

007 a new 12-step symbol? Dubunking the myth

So it’s official: James Bond was a drunk. As the immortal Louie of Casablanca said, “I’m shocked… shocked!”

Not really. Any drunk can spot another drunk, and Bond, well he’s the poster child right? That’s why we idolize him still. Wine, women and adventure. Our Walter Middy’s run amok with such fantasies. But that’s why this humorous new study is actually quite important. It challenges the myth. When it comes to drinking, the myths nearly always win out.

The myths haunted me in rehab. I was a month into a six-month inpatient program and still trying to figure out how I could finagle drinking and sobriety at the same time. Only when I did a thorough study of core beliefs, things that went back to the deepest memories of my childhood did I realize that my thinking prized those like James Bond and Ernest Hemingway and men’s men who drank and wrote and loved women and lived hard. I finally put this belief in a statement: “People who don’t drink are weak.”

If I was going to get sober and stay sober, I had to take a wrecking ball to that core belief. It was perhaps the most difficult step in a long journey that now peeks ahead to my four-and-a-half year sobriety mark. Back then, I never, ever, dreamed I’d speak of such things let alone celebrate them.

One of the ways I got out the wrecking ball was to actually document my drinking, just like they did for ole James Bond here.

bond-infographic1

I did an exercise where I worked out my alcohol budget for a random month prior to rehab. I did the best I could to document my spending patterns. Inexpensive wine for every night of the week. Hard alcohol for night caps. Long Island Iced Teas and Margaritas for company. Happy Hours at least twice a week. Expensive wines for my collection and again, for company. Beer for football and sports bars. Vodka for heavy stress, which was often. Scotch and cognac for those times I wanted to feel like my shit didn’t stink.I learned James Bond had nothing on me.

Seriously, 13 drinks a night, that’s why they discovered about 007? No problem. I used to tell people all the time my mantra: “I don’t drink any more than one drink an hour, just like the guidelines say…. Not to exceed 24 drinks in any one-day period, of course.”

I figured out my wife and I could have driven a his and hers Mercedes for what we spent on booze each month. You do that shit in rehab. You count. Because its rude to count before you hit rehab.

Whoever did this study… well, I’d guess that guy or gal’s been to rehab. We count in there.

The myths of drinking sustain the drinker. “I can handle it.” “It’s fun, not harmful.” “I only take the edge off.” “I don’t drink that much.” “All my friends drink.” “If I drink too much, and I only say IF, then I’m a functioning alcoholic, because I don’t have any problems related to it.” And even more subtly and powerfully, “When I drink, I’m like James Bond.” No drunk says that one out loud, but we think it.

For me I had to recognize that I disdained those who didn’t drink. If they were Jesus Freaks who condemned drinking, they were just scared of life to me. Worse, I hated drunks. If they couldn’t handle their booze, they were the epitome of weak. I believed this so deeply it took days and days of drilling down to even admit it, much less own it.

Eventually, the walls of my myth came down. I discovered people in recovery were among the most strong and heroic and real folks I’d met. The weakest of the bunch was me, someone propped up a lie and myth and image that was killing him and ruining his life. Slowly, I changed my core belief. It now says, “When I drink I am weak. When I don’t drink I am me.”

I’d much rather be me than James Bond. As this study says, Bond likely died from alcohol-related illness in his fifties. I’m in my forties and I’ve never been healthier. I’m going to outlive James Bond (God willing)… and my life is far more fuller because of it.

EffinArtists.com was born in rehab. It’s a celebration of a wide-angled life, one full of pursuits and hobbies and interests, all things I lost when my telephoto life centered on drinking. If James Bond means anything to me, it’s a guy who needs to start the 12th step and nothing more.

I joke a lot on on this site, but this I’m deadly serious. If you read this and connect with any of it, the True EffinArtist who writes across the sky may just have led you here. I’m not going to try to baptize you, or change you, or scare you. I just want to listen. Contact me. Go to EffinArtists.com and click to our contact page. Drop me a quick note. I’ll get in touch. I’ll listen. I walk with you.

And if you are hesitating at all, know this. You are doing me a favor. The 12th step in AA tells me the surest way I stay sober is to be of service to others… “to carry out this message to others…” So help me stay sober. Drop me a line.